What are the different types of icing? A guide with Annabelle Jane Cake School

The different types of icing – a definitive guide

If you’re looking to learn everything you need to know about the different types of icing then you’ve come to the right place!

Those lovely ladies at the fantastic Annabelle Jane Cake School have compiled together for us this easy to follow guide to all the different types of icing any cake making enthusiast needs!

From the difference between sugarpaste and fondant to Mexican paste to and pastilage; It’s important to know which icing to choose and why? And we’ve got it all covered for you right here…

What is the Annabelle Jane Cake School?

The Annabelle Jane Cake School offers one of the widest ranges of cake decorating courses in the UK. Everyone from beginner to advanced (and even children) are catered for where people come to learn in a fun-filled environment.

Their experienced tutors are relied upon to know a wide range of subjects during an always busy schedule so who better to seek advice from for all you need to know about cake icing!!!

Your definitive guide to icing with Annabelle Jane Cake School


Made with a combination of butter and icing sugar. Buttercream is often spruced up with flavourings such as lemon zest or chocolate to give it extra taste.

Fantastic to use as a cake filling or a crumb coat.  We also frequently used fondant icing powder instead of icing sugar as this creates a smoother, less gritty buttercream. You can either buy buttercream ready made or learn how to make your own.



Frosting is commonly used for things like piping swirls on cupcakes.

It is similar to buttercream but with the added benefit of Meri-White (a pasteurised dry egg white) which adds more stability to shapes (such as swirls) when you are icing. It also holds better on a warm day than the likes of buttercream.

White frosting, in particular, is good to use if you are looking to add a specific colour to a cake in comparison to something like buttercream which is yellow.


Royal icing

One of the most traditional forms of icing. Royal icing is a pure white icing that provides a smooth, hard, matte finish once dried.

Classically made with egg whites and icing sugar, royal icing is now more commonly made with Meri-White as this removes any potential health risks associated with the use of raw egg whites. It can also provide you with more dependable results.

One of royal icings many uses is to give a snow like effect on Christmas cakes as well as piping details and text.

It is also often used to stick gingerbread houses together and to pipe flowers.

When placing onto cakes, royal icing usually sits on top of marzipan to avoid discolouration and can be coloured using both concentrated paste and liquid colours with glycerine sometimes added to stop the icing from setting too rapidly.

You can learn how to make your own royal icing at one of our fun-filled courses at the Annabelle Jane Cake School.


Marzipan creates a fantastic base beneath poured fondant or poured chocolate toppings (and it tastes really nice too!).

We recommend choosing a good quality marzipan with an almond content of at least 25%. Marzipan can be coloured for modelling and cutouts.


Sugar paste

Sugarpaste, AKA rolled fondant, roll out icing, Regal Ice (or any of the other many brands available), covering paste and plastic icing (depending on where in the world you are!)

This is the roll out icing you often use to cover cakes and will see in a lot of cake decorating classes and tutorials. However, it can also be used on both cupcakes and cookies from time to time.

Although sugarpaste can be made at home it is more commonly bought in as it takes a while to make and most of the store-bought stuff these days is fantastic!

Sugarpaste comes in a wide variety of colours in all different ranges.

We advise that you knead the icing before use to make it easier to roll out and that you dust the surfaces you use your sugarpaste on with cornflour to prevent it sticking.


Flower paste (also known as petal paste or gum paste)

Flower paste is a strong, flexible icing which can be coloured using the same methods as sugar paste.

It’s fantastic for creating things like butterflies, flowers, stars etc because it can be rolled finely and holds its shape well once rolled due to its strength.

We believe that the best way to dry your flower paste designs is by placing them on a foam sheet which allows air to easily circulate and dry evenly. Thus stopping the designs from becoming distorted.  We also recommend, like sugarpaste, that you dust the foam with a little cornflour beforehand to prevent sticking.

Again you could make your own flower paste, but proprietary brands are far easier and give wonderful results.

Mexican Paste

The best way to describe Mexican paste is strong and stretchy. It is a lot more stretchy than flower paste and is also a lot whiter.

We like to think of it as the ‘Rolls Royce’ of icings!

This is due mainly to the fact that it is so elastic that you can roll it as thin as a sheet of A4 paper. It’s great for using with patchwork cutters and also works well with small intricate moulds.

It works well with complex designs such as snowflakes and is the ideal choice for creating edible clothing.

Modelling paste

Modelling paste is a manually strengthened type of sugar paste.  You can make this by combining equal quantities of sugar paste with a strong icing and mixing them together.

Modelling paste can also be made by adding 1 teaspoon of either gum tragacanth or CMC to 250g of sugar paste.

It is important to knead your ingredients thoroughly when mixing your own modelling paste to ensure that both your ingredients have intertwined correctly.

Alternatively, you can buy ready made modelling paste from numerous cake suppliers.

Modelling paste is best used for cakes where you want an icing that holds its shape better than standard sugar paste but doesn’t harden too quickly.

As the name suggests, this paste is mainly used for modelling but also works well with frills, ruffles, bows and swags.



Pastillage is a very hard setting icing which great for structures and creating solid shapes (for instance the handles on a handbag cake).

You can buy pastillage as a powder mix or make your own from royal icing, gum tragacanth and icing sugar.

However, It doesn’t have much stretch so wouldn’t be suitable for things like modelling or flower making.


Poured fondant

Used for cupcakes and fondant fancies, poured fondant is made by heating fondant icing powder which is mixed with water or stock syrup over a bain marie to approx. 38°.

It is easy to colour and dries to a smooth and very shiny finish.

Glace icing

Glace icing is made by mixing icing sugar with a liquid such as water or fruit juice. Although glace icing doesn’t usually give a cake a very professional look it’s great for having fun with whilst baking with the children as you can easily drizzle it on top of a sponge or cupcakes



A rich icing made with Belgian chocolate and double cream… and without a doubt one of the tastiest.

Ganache is usually poured over cakes to achieve a smooth shiny chocolate finish, as well as frequently used to top cupcakes or can even be whisked to make a delicious alternative to buttercream to fill and crumb coat cakes.

Learn how to make ganache with our online tutorial or learn the art of chocolate with one of Annabelle Jane Cake School’s attended courses.


So there you have it…

…all you ever wanted to know about icings and when to use them.

If you’d like more help on getting the best results ask below in the comments, or book into one of our Annabelle Jane Cake School’s cake courses in the UK where we can show you everything you want to know.


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